Moscow, Feb 7 (EFE). Russian President Vladimir Putin declared the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi open at 10:27 p.m. Friday.

The official inauguration came halfway through the opening ceremony of the games at the new Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi Olympic Park on the banks of the Black Sea.

The 22nd Winter Games brings together 6,000 athletes from 88 countries.

Putin and International Olympic Committee head Thomas Bach witnessed the ceremony accompanied in the president's box by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon together, with 65 heads of state and government and leaders of international organizations also on hand.

Not among those attending, however, were U.S. President Barack Obama, France's Francois Hollande, German head of state Joachim Gauck and British Prime Minister David Cameron, a decision considered to be a protest against Russia's new anti-gay laws.

Two legends of Soviet sports, ice hockey goalie Vladislav Tretiak and figure skater Irina Rodnina, lit the Olympic flame.

The flame arrived at the stadium held aloft by tennis star Maria Sharapova, followed by double Olympic champion in the summer games, pole-vaulter Yelena Isinbáyeva, who is pregnant.

Next came the turn of legendary wrestler and triple Olympic champion Aleksandr Karelin, and rhythmic gymnast Alina Kabayeva.

Those were the chosen ones to close the 123 days of the longest Olympic relay run in history, which carried the torch more than 65,000 kilometers (40,000 miles).

Since Putin fired the starting gun to begin the marathon relay as the Olympic flame was lit in Red Square on Oct. 6, 2013, the torch traveled to the International Space Station, the North Pole and Lake Baikal. EFE